Ah, 3rd year. You finally have gotten to the level where you get to touch animals, and now you’re petrified.

So, what’s the best way of doing well in clinics during veterinary school?

In this VETgirl online veterinary CE blog, we review the top 10 things to do to excel in clinics.

Rule #1: Work hard
One of the best ways to do well in clinics is to have a strong work ethic. Asking to leave “My shift ends at 4 pm” does not go well, ever. Remember the cardinal rule – you don’t go home until all the house officers and faculty have gone home. While this is exhausting, this is your one year to learn in life – take advantage of it!

Rule #2: Be a good team player
It’s really important to be a good team player in clinics – that’s because you’ll also need help from your colleagues and classmates. Whether it’s lifting a heavy, down dog off a gurney to drawing blood work to helping restrain an aggressive animal, you’re going to need help. So resort back to kindergarden rules of playing nicely with everyone.


Rule #3: Learn how to interact and communicate well with others
Remember, a pet owner, technician, veterinarian, and colleague all form their opinion of you in the first 10 seconds. Make sure you dress professional. Have a firm handshake. Look them in the eye (kindly). Be compassionate. Pet their pet. And make sure you have a good “introduction.”

Rule #4: Be efficient
Check out our VETgirl blog on “How to be an efficient veterinarian” for some good clues. This is especially important in clinics as you may be swamped. An example of being efficient? When you do all your 7 A.M. morning SOAPs, make sure to do everything you need to do to that patient possible when you take him out. For example, if the treatment sheet says to walk the dog at 10 am and weigh him at 12pm, consider doing it all at once while you have the patient out. This helps minimize the medical errors that occur when an animal is connected back to IV fluid lines (or enteral feeding lines, etc.), and improves patient care. Likewise, be efficient with venipuncture – for the sake of the pet. Don’t stick that dog for a PCV/TS/BG/AZO at 7 am, only to find out the clinician wants a CBC too at 8 am. Ask first before sticking.

Rule #5: Treat your technical staff nice!
In general, you should treat everyone nice – from the front desk staff to the janitor to the technical staff to the senior clinician. While you may be tired and hangry, remember to treat others the way you want to be treated – in a kind, respectful manner. After all, we all have a lot to learn from everyone in life.

Rule #6: Treat each patient the way you would if it was your own pet
This is an important life lesson. Your goal of your clinical year is to learn how to take care of patients. So make sure you are the patient advocate. Don’t let them sit in urine. Don’t let them be dirty. Don’t let them wait too long to be walked while on IV fluids. Tempt them to eat and hand feed them with some TLC. Love them up. Because that’s what helps save lives.

Rule #7: Ask questions
If you’re not sure how to do something, always ask. There are no dumb questions in clinics. I’ve seen urethras ruptured because someone filled a Foley catheter the wrong way. I’ve seen animals overdosed on medications because someone didn’t verify the CRI or drug dose. I’ve seen NE tube lines accidentally hooked up to IV lines. I’ve seen sucralfate given IV. When in doubt, if you’re not sure, ASK. Because you can potentially kill a patient otherwise.

Rule #8: Know that you’re going to make mistakes
Unfortunately, one of the ways that we all learn is by making mistakes. The most important thing to remember is to not make the the same mistake twice.


Rule #9: Learn something new everyday and take 5 minutes to read up on something
After being on clinics all day, it’s hard to want to go home and read Ettinger. And that’s not realistically going to happen. Instead, pick up your old class notes or skim through a Five-Minute Clinical Consult book instead. Personally, I learn well by humiliation. If I’m asked something difficult in rounds and don’t know the answer, it’s been etched into my brain-due-to-shame forever.

Rule #10: Listen to the clinician’s spiel
One of the most important things that you need to learn is how to communicate with your pet owners. Take the time to listen to multiple clinician’s spiel… that way you learn how best to communicate.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the learning. Let the learning begin! What other tips do you have?

Signature JLEE





P.S. Rule #11: Don’t suck up
Ah, the suck-up student. I actually hate this. #NoClingOns #BringMeAMochaInstead In real life, there’s no need for this. Place nicely, but no need to be the suck-up. Because we all hate you then. Be real. Be genuine. But be kind.


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